Saturday, December 31, 2011

Gluten Free Crackers

This is another recipe introduced to me by my lovely friend and cousin, Sylvie.  I got to spend a weekend with her a few weeks back and had a great time watching her get messy in the kitchen.  She has a fearless and experimental approach to cooking that I love, and lucky for us, she loves to share what she knows.
Even if you're not trying to cut out gluten, these are great crackers that beat the crap out of just about anything you can find in the store when it comes to flavor, price, ingredients, sodium, packaging, and how good you feel after eating them.  Plus they're fun and easy to make.  

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Quinoa Minestrone and the state of the nation

Hello people, friends, friendly people.  I hope that wherever you're reading this from you're warm and dry and well fed.  If you're two of these three things you're in good shape.  If you're all three, all the better.  If you're all three AND have someone you can do nice things for, well then my friend, you may consider that you're in better shape than most of the people on the planet and thank your lucky stars.  If you have all those things AND no one's dropping bombs on your homeland or holding a loved one of yours indefinitely without charge or promise of a trial, well then it becomes hard to complain about those few extra holiday pounds, doesn't it?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sprouted Lentil Loaf

Served here with dressed arugula and Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Here's another special something for that holiday table.  I tried to keep the ingredient list manageable and open to substitutions.  I used carrots, onions and celery as the main vegetables because most people have these around during the holiday season (did someone say stuffing???).  Feel free to experiment a bit though - maybe throwing in some mushrooms or a bell pepper.   I used almonds for a topping because that's what I had, but this is excellent with hazelnuts, and not too shabby with walnuts.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Avocado, Beet and Feta Terrines

I'm not sure if these are technically "terrines," but terrine sounds much nicer than "mold."  I put these together under the orders of my friend Raphaelle the other night at a dinner party she hosted and they knocked everyone's socks off.  They're beautiful, flavorful, and perfect for the holidays.  They're also easy to make and they'll impress all your friends.  Give it a shot!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Iron Packed Citrus Ginger Quinoa

This is one of my absolute favorite dishes, I could eat it every day.   Not only is it delicious and beautiful, but its's a nutritional home run.  Quinoa, parsley, beets and walnuts are all great sources of plant iron.  As you may know, iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in the world, much more common than protein deficiency, so it's good to pay a little attention to your iron intake.  

Plant iron isn't as easily absorbed as iron from animal sources, but there are things we can do to boost absorption.  An easy trick is to add a source of vitamin C to your meal when eating iron rich foods.  Adding a bit of vitamin C to a meal can increase iron absorption up to six-fold.  Who knew?  So what we have here is a dish that contains a complete protein (quinoa), lots of iron, loads of vitamin C, plenty of fiber, and a wide array of other important micronutrients.  What more could you ask for?  Oh yeah, AND this looks beautiful on a holiday table.   Enjoy!

Provençal Hummus

This is something of a cross between a tapenade and a hummus - an olivey, lemony, garlicy spread that packs serious flavor.  I love tapenade, but you can't really go to town on it because it's highly caloric, salty and fatty.  It's one of those things that has to be used sparingly, lest you develop gout on the spot.  This dip, introduced to me by good friend and cousin, Sylvie, takes the ingredients of tapenade and spreads them out with the addition of black and kidney beans.  She made us a batch and promptly had to make a second because we ate it like hungry beasts.

The original recipe calls for anchovies and I have to say - if you're a little bit adventurous and not a vegetarian - you really should try throwing one or two in.  Too many and they quickly become overpowering.  As it stands, this is already a very rich spread, and as usual - if you find the use of raw garlic too intense, try roasting your garlic first. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ring of Fire Granola

I originally set out to make something I was going to call "subtly spicy granola," but subtlety is not my forte and I ended up with this instead.  Every now and then using tablespoons instead of teaspoons pays off.  This granola is not so subtle.  It's pretty spicy.  

Eaten by dry handfuls it's spicy enough to make your mouth tingle, paired with a bowl of fresh fruit it's perfect.  You can tone down the amount of cayenne if you're afraid, but I strongly recommend going all in.  You can always bring the spice down a notch by adding soy/almond/oat/etc. milk or yogurt to the finished product.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hot Artichoke Dip - you've never had it so good

This one is for all you dip lovers out there, especially the ones who have special pot luck shirts that say, "I'm here for the dip."  You know who you are.  If prepared for a small enough group, or in large enough quantities, this dip is sure to spoil your dinner, as any good dip should.  It also makes for a great addition to a brunch table - something for your vegetarian friends at the lox and bagels party, though all the lox eaters will probably still try to hog it all anyway.

This concoction came about because I love artichokes and I love hot dips, but can't get down with eating something comprised mainly of mayonnaise.  This is vegan, naturally low fat, cholesterol free, and has been served to many people who have loved it and never suspected that it's made from tofu.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Lemon and Mint Asparagus Quinoa

Quinoa is a great source of protein and iron, and whether prepared sweet or savory, it's one of my favorites.   I typically soak it for an hour or so before cooking, but have recently read that to properly soak it (and all whole grains for that matter) it should be soaked overnight in warm water with 1 tablespoon of acid (apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, yogurt, etc) per cup of soaking liquid.  Did you know that?  I had no idea.  All this time I've just been soaking stuff in plain water.

Then again, I'm finding plenty of sites that say you don't need to soak quinoa.  Here's a good one with some tips on preparation.  Nourishing Traditions also has great information on why and how to soak grains, and this site has a blurb from Nourishing Traditions and a rant on oat soaking if you're curious.

To soak or not to soak.  What's a person to do?  The interwebs are so confusing.  So much information, so difficult to get to the bottom of it all.

Winter Spring Rolls

Holidays are upon us and I have so many things I want to share with you all for holiday party ideas.  Sadly, it's getting dark here now around 4:15 in the afternoon and the artificial lighting in our kitchen makes food pictures look yellowed and sweaty.   As a result, anything I want to photograph and post has to happen between 9 and 3.  I had big plans today to get the sprouted lentil loaf up here but ended up with a sprouted lentil mush that's tasty, but not exactly something to share with others.  Try and try again.  I've been trying to make a loaf without eggs and can't quite get it to hold together, I just may have to put the eggs in unless any of you have some suggestions...?

What I DID manage to get done today were these winter spring rolls.  I wanted to make something that could be easily taken to a potluck or a holiday party that utilized the flavors of the season.  So, I took the classic Vietnamese spring roll and winterized it.  The result is a rice paper wrap filled with roasted root vegetables, lemony shredded kale, bell peppers, and sprouted lentils for added crunch.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Flax Corn Bread - vegan & gluten free

I have a few friends who are taking a break from gluten, and a few others who don’t eat eggs. This one is for everyone; a cornbread that will please vegans and meat eaters, wheat eaters and wheat avoiders. It took a few trial runs, and I’m not entirely sure why it works, but it’s a great basic cornbread that could go in many directions – I think next time I’ll try adding some orange zest, dried cranberries, and a bit of coconut for a sweet bread. As it is, it’s a great accompaniment to sweet or savory dishes.

What I like the most about this recipe is that it doesn’t call for all the tons of buttermilk, butter, and eggs that most cornbreads do. A cup of applesauce replaces most of the oil, flax seed meal replaces the eggs and adds fiber. Good stuff.  I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Green Olivey Couscous

I had completely forgotten about this concoction until a few days ago when I was hit by an unexpected taste memory.  I don't know what brought it on, I don't think I was even eating olives, but suddenly I had the taste of this couscous in my mind and had to make it.

The combination was born out of nothing more glamorous than having these ingredients on hand, but it's a combination I love.  I normally go a little overboard on punch in salady things, utilizing lots of vinegar or lemon juice, but this is one I like to keep simple.  There's something very satisfying about the play of textures between the soft couscous, crunchy seeds, airy parsley, and succulent olives.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

This is a simple soup that can be taken a lot of different directions depending on how you'd like to spice it up.  The basic version has three main ingredients:  squash, onion and water.  You could add curry powder and coconut milk, cinnamon and maple syrup, a cup or two cooked rice, barley or adzuki beans for texture, or just leave it as is.  In the picture above I've garnished it with toasted pumpkin seeds and feta cheese.  The texture of the seeds and the saltiness of the cheese balanced nicely with the sweetness of the squash.  It would also be nice with a drizzle of sesame oil and some chopped walnuts or hazelnuts.  Lots of options.  Give it a try and tell me what you do with it.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

There’s a chef at a nearby restaurant who’s supplying us with waste vegetable oil for our car.  He changes out his fryers (not friars, that would have been embarrassing) twice a week and hands over about 5 gallons of free fuel each time.  We’re scheduled to pick up from him tomorrow and I hate to go empty handed.  “Thanks for the free gas for our car, here’s nothing in return.  Have a great day!”  It’s time to take the man some cookies, it’s the least we can do.

Now I’m sorry, but I just cannot, will not, put two sticks of butter and two cups of sugar into a batch of cookies.  Even when I think, “eff it, I’m gonna make a big ol' dirty batch of cookies and I don’t care WHAT goes in them,” when push comes to shove I just can’t do it.  It offends my sensibilities. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

A sample day

My sweet ride, a gift from a friend - Koren, and the back pack that I pack the groceries into

This is just to give you an idea of what a typical personal chef visit looks like.  I attempt to prepare three days worth of food in approximately four hours using one soup pot, one sauce pot, and one skillet, arriving on my bike, groceries in my backpack.

Today's menu (groceries not pictured):
Breakfast Quinoa / berries
Red lentil soup / garnishes
Soba noodle salad with spinach, sugar peas, blanched broccoli and tempeh
Portabello mushroom polenta bake with tomato sauce
Shredded vegetable salad with barley
White bean salad

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Make Bread.

I got spoiled when it comes to bread years ago when I worked at Wheatfield's Bakery - Lawrence, KS.  They still have the best artisan bread I've ever had, and I miss the days when I was able to take a loaf home at the end of every day;  best perk ever.  They still have an old picture/blurb about me in their archives if you're in the mood for a chuckle.

Since working there I've done a fair amount of bread baking, especially when I was living in Korea where it was next to impossible to find a loaf of bread that didn't look like a loaf of marshmallow.  I made variations on this recipe for a long time and was pleased enough with the results.  But this summer, a friend of mine started baking bread using the methods in Tartine Bread and I got hooked, once again, on artisan bread.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sprouts and civil disobedience

I get really fired up when the topic of seed patenting comes up.  I can't believe we live in a world where governments allow companies to patent life.  With these patents, companies are able to stop farmers from saving seed - a practice as old as agriculture, and force growers to be financially enslaved to one more thing (another "thing" being big oil) buying new seed year after year.  Don't even get me started on Monsanto.  There's a pretty decent article here that talks about their shining example of  unconscionable corporate greed.  How do we let this happen?

While I was looking up some information on the benefits of eating sprouts, I found articles about legal battles over sprout production.  Do you know about the Broccoli Sprout Saga?  In brief, some Dr.'s from John Hopkins University were granted sole rights to broccoli sprout production.  They formed a company, Brassica Protection Products, and set out to exercise their dominion over all things broccoli sprouts (evil laugh, heads tossed back, finger tips drumming together).  They sued independent growers, intimidated others out of production, and a whole legal battle ensued.  Finally, after years of litigation and appeals, the independent growers won and now broccoli sprouts can legally be grown by sprout people over the world.  What?  Of COURSE they can!  Doesn't it seem absurd that this conversation is even happening?  It defies basic understanding of the laws of nature to think that companies should have control over such things.  But they do, and the conversations and legal battles ARE happening, and it's important that we pay attention - especially when it comes to the right to produce our own food.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Rustic Roasted Potato Salad

Roasted Garlic Potato Salad

This potato salad kicks arse.  Roasted garlic, green olives, sun dried tomatoes, whole grain mustard, loads of parsley, and absolutely no mayonnaise.  Measurements really aren't necessary; just throw in as much of each ingredient as you like to make a salad that knocks your knickers off.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Choco Date Balls

Raw Cacao Recipe

I need a steady source of chocolate in my diet or else I get grumpy.  These are easy and fun to make - maybe 15 minutes from start to finish.  They're raw, they're versatile, and they impress the crap out of people.  Feel free to play with what you put in them and what you roll them in.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Nina Bars

Vegan Granola Bars

This recipe was designed for my Mom who, like many of us, would rather spend her precious, pre-work morning moments surfing Facebook than cooking breakfast.  She was looking for something that wouldn't spike/crash her sugar levels,  that would be easy to take to go, and that would tide her over until lunch.

The first version I made for her was a bit different - it had egg and wheat bran, and was a bit too dry.  Lately I've been reading some things that have me, once again, questioning whether or not I want to include eggs in my diet, so I decided to give it a go without the eggs and see if it would stick together.  It did, and now Nina bars are vegan and cholesterol free.   Flax seed meal often stands in for eggs in vegan baking, and I believe that the flax/soy milk/heat combo is what helps these bars to stay together.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bierock - sans animal

I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am to be posting this recipe - this is something I've been wanting to do for YEARS.

I grew up in a small town in western Kansas, with a strong Volga German heritage.  We ate lots of meat and potatoes, lots of things with heavy cream, and lots of things that most people have never heard of.  I don't even know how to properly spell "kedovel and glace"to try to look it up, but we ate it and it was good and let me tell you - those recipes didn't pull any punches.

Bierock was a staple at our house, especially after my Dad married Connie - a hard working, big hearted woman who loves to cook.  I would venture to say that Connie is happiest when she's in the kitchen, and she is especially gifted at cooking for large, hungry harvest crews.  My Dad is a wheat farmer and whenever harvest was around the corner, Connie would busy herself with filling the freezer to accommodate all the hungry men who would be over for dinner after a long, hot, dirty work day.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Delicata Squash and Pear Salad

Delicata Squash

A friend of a friend recently gifted us with a small stock pile of winter squash.  I cant' tell how strongly this reinforces my desire to live on a farm and grow my own.  But until that day comes, I'm grateful to enjoy the bounty of their harvest, and I hope some of you will enjoy this autumn salad.  The saltiness of the feta plays nicely off of the sweetness of the squash, and the pear and walnuts texture, juiciness, and crunch.

Easy Basil White Bean Pesto, or is it hummus?

This is a piece of cake to make and I can't get enough of it.  It's part of my quest for tasty dips and sauces that aren't overly loaded with fat.  For quite a while I've been on the, "well but it's good fat" kick and while I still don't balk at reaching for the olive or sesame oil, I could stand to tone it down a bit.  We ate this with crackers, in wraps, on cut vegetables, and as a dressing for a potato salad.  I imagine it would be good over pasta or stirred into some warm rice.

Rustic Tomato Soup

Vegan Tomato Soup

Few things can top the flavor combination of a well made tomato soup and a good quality grilled cheese sandwich.  This soup is an easy puree of fresh roma tomatoes, a few vegetables, and some stale hearty bread.  I put it together one afternoon at the end of tomato season when we happened to have some rock hard artisan bread laying around.  I hate to throw away good quality bread, so this was a great fix.  The soup freezes well and makes for an easy week night dinner - just heat on the stove and serve alongside a sandwich or salad.

Cilantro Tofu Pesto

I've been experimenting making different bean and tofu spreads as alternatives to their higher fat pesto friends.  They're cheaper to make since they use less olive oil, and I don't feel guilty about going to town on a bowl of one.  Here's a recipe that utilizes cilantro, but you could substitute any herb or spice mix that tickles your fancy.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Romanesco three ways

I was recently introduced to this most interesting of vegetables by a lovely vendor at the Jean-Talon Market.  Can you believe the size of those cauliflowers?  He told us that Romanesco comes from Italy, that the Italians use it much like broccoli, that it has a slightly almondy flavor, that people freeze whole heads in order to have them around for the holiday season, and that he was confident that if we bought one we’d be back for more.  

He was right.

< = How fascinating is this thing?

It’s huge and alien and interesting from so many different angles…

Warm spicy pumpkin bread

Well I’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen lately, but if I don’t start spending some more time on the computer no one’s going to know about it.  Last week Philippe and I went back to Kansas for a quick visit and while it was unseasonably warm, it was still fall and the sight of pumpkins on doorsteps made the pumpkin craving kick in. I tweaked an old pumpkin bread recipe from my mom's recipe box with pretty decent results. In hindsight, it could have handled another couple of tablespoons of spice. A loaf topped with chopped, candied ginger would have been nice as well.

This recipe makes a big ‘o’ batch, who doesn’t love to get a loaf of pumpkin bread as a gift?